• Alastair Cook’s side are in the United Arab Emirates to play Pakistan
  • England captain Cook reaches 50 early on day three 
  • England begin day three on 56-0, after Pakistan made 523-8 declared 
  • Follow all the action from day three from 6.30am 
  • England cricket news: CLICK HERE for all the latest 

Jonny Singer for MailOnline

England go into day three knowing they need to bat all day to avoid the follow-on, but encouraged by a final session on day two which helped shift the momentum in their favour.

After Pakistan had batted them into the ground before tea, England picked up four quick wickets after the break, and then began to set about their aim of getting as close as possible to their hosts’ mammoth total. 

Captain Alastair Cook and his new partner Moeen Ali reached 56-0 at the close, leaving England 467 behind at the start of play this morning.

Follow all the action with JONNY SINGER, with updates from PAUL NEWMAN in Abu Dhabi.  

  • Jonny Singer

    Host commentator

For the first time this morning Cook’s sweep brings him a run – just a single to square leg, who is fairly deep now.

Moeen tires his familiar release to mid-on, but there is now a man very close in to stop it – so he takes his single to midwicket the next ball instead. England making steady progress. 

A first boundary for Moeen Ali as a Test opener – it’s taken him 87 balls, but it’s worth the wait as he just nudges Rahat, on for Wahab, between mid-on and midwicket. Pure timing, no power, but it goes all the way for four. 

Those are the only runs of the over, but very little threat from Rahat in his first bowl of the morning.

Again Cook looks to sweep out of the rough for the second time, and for the second time he completely misses. Another bye as it goes through Sarfraz.

Moeen gets another single to mid-on, who is back and gifting the England opener a run every time. 

Cook then rocks back and cuts Zulfiqar to the point fence – that was a better shot. 

Another single for Cook off the first ball of the over – it’s odd to see him so positive when Ali is playing so patiently, it really is.

But Moeen shows he has his array of shots in the locker when he wants to get them out, as he shows with a graceful back-foot push through cover for two.

Stands tall and defends straight for the rest of the Wahab over.  

England captain Alastair Cook plays a trademark flick to leg as he passed his 50 on day three

Ohhhh – Alastair Cook wears the expression of a man who has missed out after that. Back of a length and wide, but he plays his favourite cut shot straight to the man. Should have been runs.

Two worrying deliveries in a row after that though, as Cook leaves one that turns sharply back towards his off stump – just not far enough though – then misses with a sweep and runs a bye as it goes through everyone. 

Moeen more comfortable for the rest of the over. 

A single for Cook takes him off strike – he and Moeen have faced almost exactly the same number of balls, but Ali, who was meant to come in to be an aggressive foil, remember, has just 16 in the time it has taken his captain to compile a half century.

Ouch! He wears one here, half-ducking a Wahab bouncer that doesn’t really get up. Smashes him on the shoulder, although credit to him, the hands were firmly out of the way. It was a no ball too, so it wouldn’t have mattered too much, and there is no lasting damage.

Just what England needed from their captain. A 50 – off just 75 balls – brought up by running Wahab Riaz down to third man to the boundary. A start. He’ll want at least another 50, and hopefully much, much more. 

Moeen gets his first run of the morning from the first ball of the over, nudging Zulfiqar to mid-on for a single – so Cook gets his first taste of spin today.

Bat well out in front of pad from the England captain in defence, as has become his way of playing the tweakers. He turns one fine for a couple, then plays a rather more aggressive shot over the infield on the leg side for three more.

The England captain has been positive again this morning, after scoring at a good rate yesterday evening. 

Wahab Riaz to open up from the other end on this third morning – he was probably the most threatening bowler yesterday in his five overs, and certainly the quickest.

First ball is up over 90mph – though also a no ball – as he finds his rhythm straight away. Cook happy to block and leave, although the final defensive shot is so well timed that it beats mid-on and they pick up a couple. 

We are a long way from Old Trafford or Trent Bridge, both in distance and atmosphere, but some things never change. The England fans – a few dozen of them – belt out Jerusalem in the first over of the day. Lovely. 

Moeen takes on a couple of sweeps, neither of which he middles, both straight to square leg. No runs from the first over of the day.

Moeen on strike, Zulfiqar Babar with the ball in his hand. There will be a lot of spin today, how will England cope…

Good morning from Abu Dhabi where, as usual, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and England are about to embark on their attempt to save this first Test. T

hey have been hugely disappointing with the ball – especially the spinners – but this pitch is flatter than the flattest thing from Flatfordshire so there really shouldn’t be any reason why they cannot bat big today.

And yet. How often do England score 500 after the opposition does? Can they really show the necessary patience and application in this helter-skelter modern cricketing world? How often do we see scoreboard pressure play a part?

And bear in mind just how tough these conditions are and that England spent 11 long hors in the field. It was actually a monumental effort from Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali to get through last night, Moeen showing real mental strength to remain unbeaten after bowling so many wicketless overs. Much will depend on Cook today.

I’m worried about Ian Bell’s state of mind after his two costly dropped catches. And I’m worried about Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in these conditions. So over to you captain and a man who remarkably has never opened the batting in a first-class match.

Yet because of the lack of alternatives here he is doing it in a Test as Cook’s seventh opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss.

Can Moeen make a success of this unlikely new role? Stayed turned with Jonny Singer, Lawrence Booth and myself to find out.

 

Both England batsmen looked in decent touch last night – Cook’s second ball apart – but they aren’t happy with being just ok – the two have them have had a net this morning, and will be out in the middle in just a few minutes.

We saw on days one and two that this surface is ideal for batting – flat as the proverbial pancake (and much flatter than a real pancake, which always have little air bubbles). Pakistan took full advantage.

But they say never to judge until both teams have batted and so I was a little worried before last night. But Moeen and Cook showed how it can be done. Which means it is just about concentration for England – not giving wickets away, and keeping the score ticking over.

Eventually, you’d think, the pitch will deteriorate, at which point it will become tougher to play spin. But for now, there are no gremlins. It’s a fill your boots kind of a day.

Of course, all the momentum in the world is no substitute for time in the middle, and that is what England need today. 

Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali did the bare minimum yesterday, scoring at a decent rate but, more importantly, not losing a wicket before the close in 21 tricky overs.

Now they have to come out and bat. And bat. And bat. If England can get through to the close of play today they will probably have passed the follow-on, which is step one to salvaging a draw. 

That will mean one – or preferably both – of these two making a score, and contributions from the rest of the order. With a middle order not in great form against spin (Buttler and Stokes in particular) all eyes will be on Joe Root and, perhaps most vitally of all, Ian Bell.  

Of all the aspects of sport that are the most difficult to pin down, momentum is right up there. Perhaps not quite as tricky to quantify as ‘team spirit’ or the ‘will to win’, but pretty close.

Well, for what it’s worth, England did a lot yesterday evening to grab the momentum. Will that help today? We shall see…

Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali saw England through to the close without losing a wicket

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